When I arrived home that evening, it seemed the whole world was upside down. I felt my head swell. I had bee stings and sharp roots stuck under my foot. Noises inside my head brought flashbacks to me. I moaned. By the side of my bamboo bed sat tearful Nene and her dog. She held my hand and squeezed softly. I saw her face through the moon light as she leaned over me.
“Get well please,” she said as she kissed my cheek. I tried to smile but it seemed angry hornets lived in my head and they would not have those. So I laid back speechless.
Outside the hut, a lot went on. Some girls from my community brought water to our tanks. Few came into my room to massage my body, drawing my legs and hands as they worked. They covered me with honey and other ointments. I continued moaning in pain until I saw Fata walk through the room door. Then I felt my heart dancing and preparing to fly to the moon.
Fata, ah Fata! The girl that played the strings of my heart. Her waist was round like melon fruit. She was chocolate skinned. She walked and spoke gracefully and always kept her head high like a proud peacock. Her face was like soft flowers and smooth egg shells. I never had the courage to talk to her and I still wonder how my male friends manage to talk with those girls.
“They are too proud!” I have added to an argument, as a flashback came to me. It was after a wrestling match between the legendary Mazi Agbareke, the Gorilla and cunny Mazi Kene, the Tiger. We were waiting for the next bout. The boys stood at one corner while the girls sat at the opposite with other women. From our stand we could see the girls talk and giggle.
“They must be musing over your big head.” Onu said to me. The other boys laughed and slapped their thighs.
“Wait, wait. Everybody take a look at myself and Onu and judge who should go home with this honorable title Isiuwa, World head.” I replied. More laughter followed. “These girls are scared of your drum you call head.”
“Okay o. I may have a big head,” Onu admitted. “But it is not empty. I can to talk them but you what can you do? You sit and dream of Fata that would never notice your existence.” Now that was painful. I swallowed hard at those words and decided to start a conversation with her that evening.
Men, women, girls, boys and their pets gathered in our compound to see me or hear my story. Nearly everyone from the community sent an emissary. Gifts accompanied the visits too, for it was the Igbo belief and tradition that onye aghala nwanne ya (don’t abandon your own). My father with some men and hunting dogs formed a small search party to comb the surrounding forests. A score of younger men were asked to protect the village in their absence. The evening breeze gave way to thousands of singing crickets. It was usual to enjoy the night airs and listen to folklore but this evening was not one of those.
My mother with the help of other women organized and cooked for everyone that came. Yam and vegetable soup was common then. So a huge fire was made around the entrances to our compound to keep away stray Wild Dogs and Hyenas. Mama with her maids tore through her barn to fetch yams. The huge basket hovering over the charcoal fire in the kitchen came down. It was rare to see Mama open that basket. I only remember her opening it during festive seasons like the New Yam Festival. I was aware that the hovering basket kept Mama’s fish and since kids were small, it was out of their reach. I recall taking some Mangala from that basket. Girls gathered Water-leaf, Spinach and Greens from our gardens. Some of the visitors will stay till daybreak, as was the culture to help out.
That night I had another attack. It was midnight. Everybody had settled for some sleep…
… To be continued…